PARIS (Reuters) - In-form George Furbank will make his England debut against France on Sunday after Anthony Watson was ruled out of their Six Nations opener with a calf injury.
England coach Eddie Jones has named Furbank at fullback after an impressive run with Northampton Saints this season, with Elliot Daly switching to the wing.
“He’s just a good rugby player. Reads the game well, good core skills. He’s a very confident young player. Nothing seem to faze him too much,” Jones told a news conference on Friday.
Captain Owen Farrell believes Furbank, the first England player to make his debut in the Six Nations since Jack Nowell and Luther Burrell six years ago, has what it takes to handle the pressure.
“He’s very calm, which is something that’s a big strength, especially at fullback,” he said.
Tom Curry is selected as number eight with Sam Underhill at openside flanker and Courtney Lawes at blindside.
Bath prop Will Stuart is also likely to win his first cap from the bench as a replacement for Kyle Sinckler.
Billy Vunipola and Watson are both out through injury, while Mako Vunipola is being rested for the Scotland game, with Jones saying an eye injury he suffered in training had ‘no effect’ on his selection.
Charlie Ewels, who was not part of the World Cup squad last year, will partner Maro Itoje in the second row.
It will his 13th cap since his debut in 2016, but his first appearance in the Six Nations.
England are playing France for the first time since beating them 44-8 at Twickenham in last year’s tournament.
Jones, heading into his fifth Six Nations as England coach, has warned that his team would unleash a ‘brutal physicality’ at Stade de France this weekend.
“We have had a great preparation in Portugal with a quality training week this week,” he said. “We have really worried about ourselves, getting ourselves right.
“We have picked a strong forward pack which is part of the England way and an exciting backline with young George Furbank playing his first test at fullback.
“France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece.”
Starting XV: 15-George Furbank, 14-Jonny May, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Owen Farrell (captain), 11-Elliot Daly, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs, 8-Tom Curry, 7-Sam Underhill, 6-Courtney Lawes, 5-Charlie Ewels, 4-Maro Itoje, 3-Kyle Sinckler, 2-Jamie George, 1-Joe Marler
Replacements: 16-Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17-Ellis Genge, 18-Will Stuart, 19-George Kruis, 20-Lewis Ludlam, 21-Willi Heinz, 22-Ollie Devoto, 23-Jonathan Joseph
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru and Julien Pretot in Paris; Editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge